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Sweeping Out the Cobwebs

Mike SteffanosMonday, June 25, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 10 - A's 2
Played Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Mets took another big step towards putting this nightmarish team slump behind them by sweeping the A's behind John Maine yesterday. Although once again not blessed with his absolute best stuff, Maine managed to keep Oakland at bay by being a pitcher. His slider continues to get better and better, and he is using his third pitch -- the changeup -- effectively.

Pitching with an expanding lead (1-0 after 1, 2-0 after 2, 4-0 after 3, and 5-0 after 4), Maine did what he has done effectively all this month -- throw strikes. In pitching 7 innings without issuing a free pass, John Maine dropped his walk rate per nine innings to 1.1 for the month of June. He's not throwing it down the middle, either. His hit rate for the month is 7.4/9. His ERA for the month is 3.03. The strikeouts have gone down somewhat, too, but it's hard to argue with the results. He improves as a pitcher before our eyes.

John Maine (Last 5 Starts)
Season   (15 Games)94.03030757838102.871.2010-5

View John Maine's Full Season Stats

Two beleaguered relievers pitched scoreless innings in relief of Maine. Guillermo Mota has looked better of late. With a mid-90s fastball still in his arsenal, the thought that Mota's problems in the early going are related to no longer using steroids are overblown. His real problem has been with his command of his pitches. He was better yesterday, but still has work to do. Meanwhile, Scott Schoeneweis not only pitched a scoreless ninth, but he didn't even allow a baserunner. Innings like that have been few and far between for the southpaw in the first 3 months of the season.

Offensively, the team kept pressure on Oakland all game, which was really nice to see. Reyes' speed earned the club a 1-0 lead, and they kept tacking on. At the end of the game when the A's tried to climb back in the game they showed the killer instinct in putting it away. Reyes continues to be the catalyst, but he's got plenty of company. Wright continues to look like the pre-Home Run Derby hitter we all grew to love. Jose Valentin seems to be finding his stroke. Carlos Gomez continues to make a case for avoiding a return flight to the Big Easy. I made the point when I was on MetsBlog's Mets TalkRadio that I love the confidence he has in himself. He's raw as hell, but refuses to get down on his ability.

It would be silly to say at this point that the club has shaken all of their woes from the previous 3 weeks. They could play a couple of bad ones against the Cards and it could go back downhill quite fast. On the other hand, there really is a different feel to things now, and that dark cloud has lifted. I'd like to see them put together a solid stretch leading into the All Star break to build off in the second half.

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (7)

Mike - One ancillary pleasure I got out of Sunday's game was Willie's decision to let Schoeneweis mop up in the ninth. And he made it a 1-2-3 ninth at that.

While we've been hammering away with our own little Schoen-watch, here came a perfect opportunity to inject some confidence into him, with no real danger of a meltdown leading to a loss.

Could it be that the Mets have found another role for Schoeney besides becoming a one-batter LOOGY? Confidence builds incrementally, and there might be some good pitching in that arm worth salvaging, injury or not.

I'm also still scratching my head trying to figure out how that nagging injury doesn't seem to be affecting Schoeneweis against lefties at all. Any thoughts, anyone?

Nostra -- Funny you mention Schoeneweis. My post as originally written had a paragraph about him and Mota that accidentally was left off as originally posted. I added it back.

Considering he is on a 3-year deal, I think we'd all love for Schoeneweis to turn it around. I can't pretend I have any answer on why he has been good vs. lefties and putrid vs. righties, but I think Willie may find himself out of necessity doing a La Russa act with his bullpen this year.

Maine has really evolved quickly hasn't he Mike? Just a few months ago we were discussing how he had to learn how to consistently use a slider and changeup, and now he's doing just that. I was lucky enough to be at Sunday's game and noticed a few things right away. Maine is clearly using his slider and changeup much more frequently, and getting both pitches over the plate with confidence. He's changing speeds on his fastball quite effectively. And he's inducing far more ground balls than he has in the past.

I don't think any of us could have expected more than what Maine and Perez have given us thus far. Both are showing the ability to hold teams down and go deep into each start. I am very impressed, and find myself waiting for Omar to find the next Maine and Perez via a trade in the next month.

Let's hope this is a sign of things to come as well Mike. What are your thoughts on La Duca getting thrown out of the game on Saturday?

Salman - Funny you should mention about Omar finding the next Maine and Perez. I'm writing something to post later tonight or tomorrow about that. And you're quite right, they've given us everything we hoped for heading into the year.
Genny - Having a temper like Paul, I understand it. At the time, I would have hoped for him to stay in the game and get a hit in that important spot. I think he regretted the blow up more after it was done that he let on. He reminds me a lot of myself when I played sports, so I'm probably a little biased.

It's not always pretty, but on a team as laid back as this one is I think having Lo Duca go off like that a couple of times a year is more positive than negative.

Well, Mike, since you have mentioned a paragraph that got left out of your article, plus a telegraph of what a future article might hold, I have a suggestion that ties in with that trend more or less: once we are really certain that this slump is behind the Mets, how's about a piece on what actually happened to cause the slump in the first place? It was some slump, you know. It's a whole bunch of something's as far as I can tell, but I would love to read your thoughts on the subject.

And, how's about that Reyes?

dd - I think it would be interesting to write, and then to throw out to see what other people think. However, as you say, I'd like to wait until I'm convinced the slump is over. It's nice they won the game tonight vs SL, but 3 hits in 11 innings is somewhat concerning, to say the least.

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